Archive for November, 2009

SXSW 2010 // Initial Lineup

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Well if you didn’t know it by the Beach House and Toro y Moi leaks, 2010 is just around the corner. Although we should have some idea about what’s going to happen next year, there are still a series of unknown events yet to be experienced. Well one such gap that has been filled this past week is the initial line-up for Austin’s annual massive cult-like gathering disguised as the South By Southwest Music Festival.

In typical SXSW fashion, most of the 230 bands slated to descend upon the Lone Star State capitol next spring are unknowns, however, after sifting through the 4+ pages of acts, I’ve found some well respected names that are guaranteed to put on a good show. When it comes to bands, you have the whole gamut to choose from. You like international acts, you say? Well they have obscure Norwegian singer/songwriter Julian Berntzen, popular Scottish indie-rockers Frightened Rabbit, and Colbert-approved Swedish swing/hip-hop/jazz group Movits! to choose from. Like the blog-buzzed bands? Well IGIF-approved acts Arms and Fanfarlo are scheduled to appear as well as GorrillavsBear-ed band Fergus & Geronimo and Aquarium Drunkard’s fave Warpaint. Looking for local flavor? Austin has that too with great homegrown acts Harlem and Daniel Francis Doyle.

As for my own personal favorites, quite a few caught my eye. Although I’ve been disappointed with his latest effort Summer of Fear, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson put out one of my favorite albums of 2008 with his self-titled debut, so I wouldn’t mind checking out his unsteady vocals live. The all-girl Atlanta garage rockers The Coathangers are another act that would be cool to check out since I missed their performance in Lubbock earlier this year. However of all the groups, the two bands I am most looking forward to see are the Vermont female folk trio ironically named Mountain Man as well as San Fran indie-rockers The Mantles. Both feature some incredibly thought out, easily listenable tunes that I think would work great offsetting the hustle-and-bustle nature of the festival itself.

No doubt, about a million more acts will start popping up on the schedule (both officially and unofficially), so I’ll keep you posted on any recent developments.

Mountain Man // Animal Tracks

The Mantles // Don’t Lie

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson // Buriedfed

Odetta // Beautiful Star: The Songs of Odetta

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Now I’m not much of a twitterer or tweeter or whatever you want to call it, but every now and then a nugget of awesome info seeps through the tweetscape and lands right in your lap. I’ve been following Marissa Nadler for quite some time and was elated to learn, via twitter of course, that she “has a version of ‘All My Trials’ on the Wears the Trousers tribute to Odetta”. I wasn’t familiar that there was an Odetta cover compilation even in the works, but a simple google search for “Wears the Trousers” displayed all the juicy details.

Evidently I didn’t get the memo that the new trend for online publications is to release cover compilations of recently deceased musicians, but one can be proud of the fact that all the proceeds from Beautiful Star are going towards reputable UK women’s charities — and what better way to honor one of the legends that closed the gender gap in music than contributions to feminist organizations! Now for those who don’t know anything about folk singer/musician/activist, be aware that a cursory look at her wikipedia page grossly underestimates here impact on music the past half century. It’s easy to swallow quick blurbs like Bob Dylan’s line “The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta” or Maya Angelou’s praise “If only one could be sure that every fifty years a voice and a soul like Odetta’s would come along, the centuries would pass so quickly and painlessly we would hardly recognize time”, but a more detailed investigation (one that will not be explored here at this time) will show more thoroughly and convincingly the influence this Southern singer yielded over not only individuals but the musical landscape itself.

Now I haven’t listened to the compilation yet — it’s set to be released November 30 — but one can imagine based on the tracklist how pleasant sounding it will be. Dotted with a handful of better known acts (Anais Mitchell, Marissa Nadler), the compilation is mostly composed of women singers who are either emerging or have never broken through. Contrary to what you might expect, all are very powerful singers (here’s to you Josephine Oniyama), demonstrating how hard it is for even talented artists to reach widespread acclaim. In fact, the compilation might just be a jumping off point to discovering a whole wave of talented female singers from across the globe, making the album exciting enough to buy.

Obviously the highlight for me will be to hear both Nadler’s and Mitchell’s take on the classic song “All My Trials” which has been amply covered by musicians over the years. Both singers have very unique voices that I’m sure will be utilized in order to add a different flavor to this 50s protest song. Odetta wasn’t the first to sing this song, but arguably one of the best, supplying Nadler and Mitchell with gigantic shoes to fill.

Here’s the full tracklist supplied by the album’s website as well as a couple of my favorite Odetta videos and a label approved mp3:

01 Linda Draper // “Sail Away Ladies”
02 Ane Brun // “If I Had A Ribbon Bow”
03 Gemma Ray // “900 Miles”
04 Anaïs Mitchell // “All My Trials”
05 Haunted Stereo // “Santy Anno”
06 Madam // “Waterboy”
07 Sandy Dillon // “Can’t Afford To Lose My Man”
08 Ora Cogan // “Motherless Child”
09 Josephine Oniyama // “The Gallows Pole”
10 Pepi Ginsberg // “Beautiful Star”
11 Society Of Imaginary Friends // “Another Man Done Gone”
12 Marissa Nadler // “All My Trials”
13 Kelli Ali // “All The Pretty Little Horses”
14 Katey Brooks // “What A Friend We Have”
15 Liz Durrett // “Chilly Winds”
16 Arborea // “This Little Light Of Mine”

Ora Cogan // Motherless Child (Odetta Cover)

The Numerators // Summer 2009 Tour CD/R

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

If you live outside the state Texas, the likelihood that you would know about the city of Lubbock is very slim. Hell, even if you have heard about it you probably would think only of tumbleweeds, cowboy hats, and maybe Bobby Knight. Surprisingly in this dust-bowl relic of a town, which gave birth to rock & roll legend Buddy Holly, lies a pretty damn good music scene — even one judged by modern standards.

As one would expect there are a handful of great singer/songwriter and country acts that call Lubbock home, but there is also a budding garage/noise rock uprising taking place, championed most by the acid-rockers The Numerators. Looking solely at the descriptions they give on their facebook page, it’s tough to pinpoint their exact sound to an unexposed listener:

  • Local dirty living room-noise pop.
  • Drunkenly played stoner noise .
  • Bathroom rock (?!).
  • And my personal favorite: Neon Nursery Rhymes

This musical mystery is part of what’s great about the group: you never know exactly what one of their shows will entail. Now I’ve witnessed my fair share of Numerators sets in the past (after all, I went to college at Texas Tech), and I have to say that they are one of the most wildly unpredictable and hyper-energetic bands out there. Whether it be Michael Jackson covers, homemade hip-hop tracks, or just thrashing out their patented fuzzed out psych rock, they put on a damn good show.

Although their live endeavors are becoming more-or-less well known, not much has been said about their music (well, unless you count a badass Fader review). I got my hands on a couple of tracks from their highly limited self-released Summer Tour 2009 CD/R, and I have to say that it is on par with other noise bands that have been making the rounds on some more established sites.

The two particular tracks that I enjoy most from the EP are “City of Gold” and “Strawberry Dreams”. The former begins with a repetitive hazy guitar line muddling your mind just enough before the foggy vocals, courtesy of singer Sammi Rana, push you over the auditory intoxicated legal limit. “Strawberry Dreams” on the other hand sobers you up a bit with its driving floor-tom beat, only to lead you down a path of chaotic destruction midway through before bringing you back to quasi-order by the finish. It’s an exhilarating roller coast ride to say the least.

Right now, The Numerators seem to be staying put in Lubbock for a while — with only a highlighted December 9th gig with much talked about Florida indie-rockers Surfer Blood on the schedule. However, if you do get a chance to see them live, DO IT! Trust me, you won’t regret it. If you need some tunes now, contact Burgers Records. As for a sample, here is a blast-from-the-past youtube video along with a “Strawberry Dreams” mp3:

The Numerators // Strawberry Dreams

Moonface // Introducing Moonface

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As if Spencer Krug needs another side project (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, and formerly Frog Eyes), he has decided to spend the sliver of free time he has developing a solo-act called Moonface. This past April, I purchased a limited edition 7” two song EP titled Introducing Moonface (well technically the name is Aagoo Records Presents: A David Horvitz Picture Disc with Sunset Rubdown: Introducing Moonface, invoking images of a Hollywood film’s opening credits), thinking all along that it was just stubs of never-produced Sunset Rubdown songs. However, when news broke that Krug has a one-sided 12” EP coming out in January, humorously named Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums, I began to look at that 7” in a new light.

I guess clues that this was a different project was there all along. For one, the songs are incredibly simple and performed only by Krug with some help by Rubdown percussionist Camilla Wynne Ingr. And if that wasn’t enough, the credits on the insert state “Sunset Rubdown is, on these recordings, Moonface and no others”. However, in my defense, I thought this was just another cryptic phrase which the band likes to throw around all the time in their lyrics.

Side A consists of the song “Coming to at Dawn”, a simple ballad featuring only a piano-vocal pairing by Krug. Although completely stripped down, the song still encompasses aspects that I like about Krug’s full-band music. One of the most noticeable is his ability to masterfully control the volume and tempo, allowing them both to ebb and flow throughout the piece in order to highlight the phrasing of the vocals. When Krug crescendos, it is to solidly emphasize lines such as “just from the power / of you refusing to believe it can not happen”, however while decrescendoing, he hides and protects others like “of course you wanted everything cold / but when you opened the door all the flower petals fold”. Now with any of Krug’s lyrics, the meaning seems to be secondary to the musicality of the words. He’s not the first to do this (Thom Yorke explained this same method to NPR a while back), but he is certainly one of the best, with this track being one of hist best examples.

As for the B-side “Insane Love Is Awakening”, Krug opts for his instrument du jour, the electric guitar. Most likely recorded before any sort of serious dabblings into constructing Dragonslayer, you can tell that he is still in the process of becoming comfortable with the instrument. The whole song seems like it is being tentatively played, with most of the awkwardness stemming from a sense of hesitation before guitar intros — much like how a trumpet soloist in a junior high band is unsure about wanting to enter in on “Smoke On the Water”.

As for what the Dreamland EP will be, we can only speculate and ask questions. Will he be a multi-instrumentalist or just to stick to Marimba and Shit-Drums (whatever the hell that is)? Any guest performers? Are the songs going to be broken into parts, much like the first s/t Sunset Rubdown EP? Whatever the album is, it’s likely we’ll have to wait until January to find out as, no promo copies are being distributed (sorry leakers). Let the countdown begin…

Here’s the Sunset Rubdown version of “Coming to at Dawn” played at a show I caught over the summer in Austin as well as the original Moonface version. If you need mp3s, use Dirpy!

Can’t Get Enough Of… // The Sandwitches

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

The Sandwitches are a quaint indie-pop band hailing from San Francisco, one of the epicenters of music for the past couple of years (See: Girls, Thee Oh Sees, The Dodos, etc…). Bucking the trend of most lo-fi “summertime feel” acts these days with psychedelic infused tunes, this all-girl trio invokes harmonies from the 50s layered over chirpy guitar melodies to create that feel-good vibe. Catchy as hell, it’s hard not to find yourself tapping your feet and humming the chorus when you hear their songs — especially the wildly infectious “Back to Sea”.

So far they have one full length LP humorously titled How to Make Ambient Sadcake out now on Turn Up Records. I haven’t procured their full length yet, but I have ordered their most recent 7” as advertised on GvB. Take a look at a recent video posted by Weekly Tape Deck:

The Sandwitches // Back to the Sea

Real Estate // Live on the Radio

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Because of my George Washington-esque ability to not tell I lie, I must profess that part of my reason for attending the Real Estate show this past Thursday was so that I could cop their limited release tour-only 12” called Live on the Radio. I’ve been excited about getting this since I saw the release pop up on the Underwater Peoples blog.

Both sides are composed of in-studio performances at two different college radio stations (A: WMUA at UMass-Amherst, B: WVKR at Vasser College) taking place in early September. If the turn around from live recording to wax seems a bit rushed, it is; the front cover itself is just a printed out piece of paper pasted to a generic LP sleeve. Regardless, the stripped down performances and the inclusion of some hard to releases and unreleased material made it worth buying.

The reverb and echoed guitar by Martin Courtney is replaced by a cleaner acoustic while the electric of Matt Mondanile is still present but highly tamed. As for the percussion, Etienne Duguay only has a set of bongo drums, a cymbal, and some miscellaneous toys to drive the beat. This more intimate instrumentation sheds the intricate layers and leaves each song solely at its infectious poppy core.

As mentioned, three of the ten songs are “new” (i.e. I don’t have them in my assumed complete collection of Real Estate tunes). On Side A, “Younger than Yesterday” is as straightforward of a song as you can get. Certainly a throw away track, it has very few changes structurally and musically (the same four chords on acoustic repeated over and over again) and absolutely no surprises. The B-side houses two new additions with “Basement” and the “The Mall”. “The Mall”, clocking in at under two minutes, is definitely the shortest and the oddest on the LP. Featuring some modest scatting and “whoo-whoo”-ing by Courtney as well as some uncomplimentary rhythms, it is easy to see why this one was left on the cutting room floor. However, “The Basement” is a rather standard Real Estate track with Mondanile’s twangy guitar effortlessly floating over Alex Bleeker’s constant subterranean bass line. Lines like “See me in the classroom / watching the seconds tick by … I was on a stony beach / watching the sea birds fly” certainly epitomizes the summertime vibe that Real Estate is so good at harnessing.

As soon as I get a vinyl rip, I’ll be sure to post some mp3s.

Essential Software // Dirpy

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

One thing I hate is when full versions of songs (live or studio) are posted via youtube. Other than the poor audio quality of the “videos”, my biggest gripe is that if you discover a song that you do like, you can never have a tangible copy which you can store into your media player’s library. Apparently this has not only irked just me as I found a site online that provides a solution to this problem: Dirpy.

After first entering the hyperlink of the youtube video you want to rip the audio from, Dirpy redirects you to a panel where you can tweak a handful of options.

I especially like the ability to choose when to start/stop the audio rip, as many youtube versions of live performances begin with crowd noise or band banter which I prefer not to listen to repeatedly. In addition, the user has the ability to edit ID3 tag data so that you can properly catalog a song, making the transition from web to media player much more seamless. Obviously the only downside is the 128 kbps maximum audio quality, but that is the most you would expect from a youtube video, so it isn’t their fault.

Here’s a Four Tet remix mp3 ripped using Dirpy to give you an idea of finished product:

Four Tet // Love Cry (Joy Orbison Remix)

Real Estate // Portland // November 19, 2009

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

There was a sweet show yesterday featuring recently crowned Best New Music inductee Real Estate alongside future Underwater Peoples labelmates Pill Wonder with Northwest homegrowns Rainbow Bridge sandwiched between. Holocene, the very slick venue where the bands were playing, also had a DJ spinning some 80s-tastic tracks in between sets with acid washed stock video footage playing on a huge projector screen — mixing nicely with the “chillwave” vibe of the acts.

I was excited to check out openers Pill Wonder just because I noticed they had a 12” in the queue and was hoping that they played some of their new material (a man can only gauge so much from four tracks on their myspace). I wasn’t disappointed as the seven piece (!) band exceeded their 30 minute time slot churning out their patented psychedelic tinged garage rock for a crowd of about forty. They ended strong with a solid funkadelic/r&b number with bassist Hans doing his best James Brown impression. All-in-all, it was a lively set.

Next in line was the male/female guitar/drums duo Rainbow Bridge. With a set of trolls on stage and the drummer donning a fake beard, I was halfway expecting a quirky kitsch act. Much to my surprise, they played some kick ass garage rock tunes which made me think about how Jack & Meg White probably started out playing to similar crowds in Detroit in the late 90s. Undeniably the crowd pleasure for the group (and arguably the whole night) was their hit track “Big Wave Rider“. With simply sung lyrics “big wave rider / try and ride a little higher / you’re a glider / smile wider” over sparse instrumentation, it didn’t take long for the audience to join in and sing out the chorus.

By the time Real Estate took the stage at 11pm, the crowd had swelled to around eighty or so folks, mostly clad in skinny jeans and eighties regalia of some sorts. In response to the size, the band said this was one of the best crowds on the tour — something that I am sure Porlanders hear quite frequently. Any questions about whether this band was overhyped or undeserving of a constant stream of buzz since their SXSW showing were put to rest when they opened up with the infectious guitar line on “Beach Comber”. Now most reviews I’ve seen of Real Estate tend to follow a madlib like recipe: “Their [adj. / wobbly] guitars invokes a sense of [childhood story of the beach] — with the repetitious [instrument] enforcing that feeling”, however, when you see them live you get a sense on how much more this group is than some band riding the “chillwave” fad of ’09.

Through the glimmering tautophony lies these bluesy syncopated guitar solos that Matthew Mondanile (aka Ducktails) and Martin Courtney shine on — not to mention the commanding power bassist Alex Bleeker has on his instrument (something that will surely translate over to his “solo” work with The Freaks). As time elapsed, you couldn’t help but be swept away by their performance and get lost in their sound. This partly affected my determining of the setlist, as I tended to loose interest in knowing the exact song they were playing and got caught up more with the feeling they were invoking through their tunes:

1 // Beach Comber
2 // Pool Swimmers
3 // (?)
4 // Fake Blues
5 // Suburban Beverage
6 // Black Lake
7 // (?)
8 // (?)
9 // Atlantic City
10 // Fake Blues

I think it goes without saying that if you get a chance to see this band play in an intimate venue, do it because these guys are just going to get more of a following as time goes by. Here is a video of them playing “Fake Blues” at SXSW this past year along with some songs of theirs:

Real Estate // Beach Comber

Real Estate // Fake Blues

Jack Reatard Gets New Band // Old Band Team Up With Wavves

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

If you’ve ever been to a Jay Reatard show, you know how incredible he is live. No banter, no lulls, and certainly no bullshit, Reatard (combined with bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes) rips through shows instead of just “playing them”. Well then came the infamous tweet (posted shortly after another free Jackpot record show) when Reatard indicated, in not so eloquent terms, that the band quit.

With European shows still scheduled, organizers scrambled to find replacements. Enter Danish punk band The Cola Freaks who, although I lived in Denmark for a year, I have never heard of. From the looks of a couple of youtube videos, Anders Thode and Jacob Elving just don’t have the pizzazz as Pope and Hayes. I mean look at this guy. Is this a face that is easily replaceable?

Fortunately, Reatard hasn’t lost anything in the transition. Here is a recent video of the new arrangement performing in London:

As for the former band, well it was just reported on pitchfork that they have joined forces with Wavves to make for an awesome trio. Yeah, I think Pope and Hayes made out just fine after the split…

Girls // Portland // November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Before taking the stage later in the evening at Doug Fir Lounge (one of the hippest venues I’ve been to), San Francisco based ungoogle-able lo-fi group Girls graced the citizens of Portland with a free show at Jackpot Records. Although the quarters were small and the stage was even smaller, Christopher Owens and company put on a very pleasant sounding show for the cramped crowd.

The group performed six songs from their critically acclaimed debut, including favorites “Laura” and “Lust for Life”. Owens, dressed in an 80s looking magenta and teal track jacket (one can assume to match his painted fingernails) was hindered throughout the set due to space constraints, allowing for more shoegaze than I can imagine is in a typical Girls set. Energetic numbers, like “Morning Light”, fell a little flat performance-wise, however, they nailed it sonically as each song was almost an exact replica of the album. Here is one more shot from the show of bassist Chet “JR” White who has some of the most bad ass chest hair I have ever seen.

Girls // Lust for Life

Girls // Hellhole Ratrace